Country Lore: Stories Cast in Stone

Learn from our readers: painted stones for teaching stories to kids, netting for plants, wooden pontoons, free bird repellent, cassava fries, and more.

Stones painted with symbols make great storytelling tools for children.
Photo by Kristen Tool

The soil at our farm in western Massachusetts is full of stones. We spend hours digging and sifting new garden beds each year to prevent crooked carrots and stunted radishes.

A few years ago, I started collecting the stones we removed from our garden and painting them as teaching tools. At the time, I was running a mixed-age after-school program for K-6th graders. Children loved using the painted stones as inspiration for stories, and they’d collect their own stones from the playground to paint new images on.

This inspired me to create what I call “Story Stone” sets the children could use to share their stories and creativity. A set included about 15 stones painted with different images on both front and back. I chose open-ended images that allowed kids to take their stories in many different directions. My Story Stone sets were a huge hit in the classroom. You could also make themed sets, such as fairy tales, farm animals, or vehicles.

To make the children in your life a set of Story Stones, begin by washing and scrubbing scavenged stones at an outdoor sink to remove all dirt. Any dirt or grit left on the stone’s surface will cause paint to chip off.

Paint the stones with outdoor acrylic paints from the local craft store. These acrylics will dry quickly and they’re durable, because they’re intended for outdoor use on clay flowerpots. I paint with fine brushes, and I use toothpicks for detail work. To prevent chipping, wait until the acrylic has thoroughly dried, and then coat the stones with clear nail polish. Other types of clear varnish will work as well.

Only collect your story stones from personal garden beds or driveways, not from waterways or parks. Rocks and stones prevent erosion, help decrease flooding, and provide habitat for many small creatures.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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